Bloomberg and Sharpton Seek Changes to NY Election Rules

Michael Bloomberg and allies unveiled a slate of changes to state election laws that they say will make it easier to vote and help boost New York out of 47th place in the nation for the percentage of voter turnout.

Notably, in attendance was the Rev. Al Shaprton, who said the state was in the "dark ages" when it came to rules allowing citizens to vote. Shaprton's support here is important, since his absence from another Bloomberg initiative—the creation of non-partisan elections—helped kill it.

Among the changes the Bloomberg-Sharpton coalition are seeking include offering "no-excuse" absentee ballots, the creation of an early voting period, extending the deadline to register for or switch enrollment in a political party, and allowing ballots to be filled out outside of the polling station where they are deposited.

Some of these may require changes to the state Constitution. Others would simply need to pass the legislature (where Democrats control the Assembly and Republicans will most likely control the Senate) and get signed by Governor Cuomo, who has made reigning in the state's out-of-control spending his top priority. Easy, right?

Some state legislators who attended today's event told me it is, actually. These changes could be done quickly and with minimal cost, they say. A low-cost, non-partisan way to boost civic engagement can help restore the public's confidence in state government, which is sorely needed.

About an hour after Bloomberg's press conference, there was some more bashing of election officials. A City Council hearing on how the New York City Board of Elections handled the November 2 elections had NYCBOE officials on the defensive. City Council Speaker at one point called it "ridiculous" that NYCBOE did not keep the unofficial results from Election Day, in order to compare it to the official results that get certified weeks later.

NYCBOE Counsel Steve Richman tried, with mixed success, to explain that the unofficial results are generated, in part, by the Associated Press and the New York City Police Department, whose officers transfer the ballots once the polls close. Richman also tried painting New York as being far superior to other places where confusing ballots have actually thrown entire elections in chaos.

Richman said, confidenctly, "We will never end up with a Florida situation."